In my childhood, this question evoked a constant debate between my grandparents. Grandma would say, “I can’t wait to see my friends again and ask them about ‘this’ or ‘that,’” to which Grandpa would respond, “Honey, I don’t think we’ll see anyone in heaven. God will be enough.” As it turns out, Grandma was right.
The Book of Revelation is an excellent resource when you find yourself in the mood for heavenly speculation. There are a few beautiful truths I’d like to highlight. First, the nature of heaven itself — St. John wrote, “The (heavenly) city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb” (Revelation 21:23). St. Thomas Aquinas picked up on this line when describing our participation in heaven as the “lumen gloriae,” the light of glory. By this grace, our minds will be infused with the life and essence of God and we will know all things through Him.
What will we know through Him? In this life, it takes many decades to get to know another person, and even then they can still surprise you! In heaven, we will know “the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, in a direct, unmediated way. Gone will be the typical cumbersome, human miscommunications as you and Jesus mutually enter the inner-life of each other’s souls. Through Jesus, we will also know His mystical body, the Church, as we join together adoring God. St. John observed, “I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
Yet at the end of time, the Book of Revelation indicates that we will not only see others, but also the entire universe will be recreated: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). The expression “a new heaven and a new earth” is a Jewish idiom called a Merism, which refers to the whole by its component parts. In this case, the entire universe fits into these two categories — all of physical reality is either above or below the atmosphere, so this expression means that the entire universe will be made new. Every kind of creature in this world reflects God’s glory, and these reflections shall be glorified in the new creation as all evil is abolished. Then we will know this new creation, including all persons in glory, by the light of the Lamb, through God Himself. What an ineffable mystery, yet a tremendous gift we have to look forward to!
Father Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.